The best, safest and most efficient way to transport a front end loader is on a trailer.
Make sure you pick the right trailer that can hold the weight of the loader, as well as the right truck that can haul the weight of the loader and trailer.
In this guide, we tell you everything you need to know about transporting a front end loader, including preparation, loading, safe transportation and unloading.
What You'll Learn Today
- Can I Drive a Front End Loader On The Road?
- For Longer Distances Use a Trailer
- What Kind of Trailer Do I Need To Transport a Front End Loader?
- Choosing The Right Truck
- Choosing The Right Tie Down Chains and Binders
- How To Load a Front End Loader Onto a Trailer?
- Transporting a Front End Loader
- How To Safely Unload a Front End Loader?
Can I Drive a Front End Loader On The Road?
After all, it has wheels.
Yes, you can theoretically drive a front end loader on the road. But that’s not always a good idea.
For one, local laws may limit farm and heavy equipment from public roads. Two, a wheel loader will be tiresome to drive – it’s heavy, slow, and has no suspension.
Three, tires on a front end loader are designed for rough terrain not smooth tarmac or asphalt. Repeated driving on smooth road surfaces will wear out the tires quickly.
That said, there are situations when driving a loader on the road is the best way to transport it. If you are moving the loader over a few miles – such as from one farm to another, or from your home to a construction site – then it’s cheaper and faster to just hit the road.
Just make sure it’s legal to do so in your state. You’ll also want to stay away from highways as the slow speed and large size of the loader can be hazardous to other motorists.
Drive the front end loader during the day and make sure you have warning lights to keep other motorists safe.
For Longer Distances Use a Trailer
For distances longer than 25 miles, a trailer is the best way to transport a front end loader.
It’ll take more time and work to load and unload the trailer, but it’s the safest option. It’s also faster overall, since a truck can drive faster compared to driving the loader.
That’s not to mean that transporting a loader with a trailer carries no risks. It can actually be more dangerous if you do not follow the right steps from selecting the proper trailer and truck to unloading the wheel loader.
What Kind of Trailer Do I Need To Transport a Front End Loader?
The best trailer depends on the weight and height of the front end loader.
There are three types of trailers used to transport heavy equipment: flatbed trailers, step deck trailers and removable gooseneck or RGN trailers.
A flatbed trailer will be the cheapest option to hire or buy. The typical weight limit of a flatbed trailer is 48,000lbs, which makes them suitable for most compact and midsize front end loaders.
Check the height of the loader. Because flatbed trailers tend to sit higher, you might exceed the legal road height limit. The max height most flatbed trailers can accomodate is 8.5 feet.
One thing to note about flatbed trailers is that they don’t have built-in ramps. You have two options to load heavy equipment.
One, you could use a loading dock, if there’s one nearby. If you don’t have access to a loading dock, you can buy loading ramps for trailers. Select a pair of wide ramps with a weight capacity well over the weight of the front end loader.
Note: Do not use any kind of DIY ramps such as wood planks. Using the wrong ramps could easily result in an accident.
A step deck trailer typically has the same weight limit (48,000lbs) as a flatbed trailer. But because it has a lower deck, it can accomodate heights of up to 10 feet.
If you have a tall midsize wheel loader, a step deck trailer is the best choice.
Step deck trailers come with built-in ramps, making loading and unloading heavy equipment easy.
Removable gooseneck trailers provide an even lower carrying height. They can accommodate equipment up to 12 feet high.
The weight limit of RGN trailers depends on axle configuration. The typical range is 40,000lbs to 150,000lbs.
RGN trailers are suitable for mid size and large wheel loaders that are too tall and heavy for other types of trailers.
Loading heavy equipment is easy. Once the gooseneck has been removed from the front of the trailer, the trailer deck can be lowered to the ground. You can then drive a front end loader onto the trailer.
Choosing The Right Truck
The truck you use to haul a front end loader needs to be able to handle the combined weight of the trailer and the loader.
Unlike a skid steer that you can haul with a decently powered pickup truck, towing a trailer with a front end loader requires some serious power and towing capacity.
Some pickup trucks like the Ford F-350 and F-450 can haul a lot of weight, but they are only suitable for compact front end loaders. Both trucks can tow up to 37,000lbs when matched with a gooseneck trailer.
This is adequate for towing the combined weight of the trailer (tare weight) and the weight of a compact wheel loader weighing 10,000-20,000lbs.
For midsize and large front end loaders, use a full size truck with a towing capacity well above the trailer tare weight and the loader weight. For safety, you don’t want to get too close to the max towing capacity.
Choosing The Right Tie Down Chains and Binders
You have the right trailer and truck. What’s remaining is what you’ll use to secure the loader onto the trailer.
Similar to trucks and trailers, chains and binders have rated capacities also called the working load limit. To ensure the front end loader is well secured, the combined capacity of all the tie down chains should be at least half the weight of the loader.
Say you have the Komatsu WA200-8 wheel loader with an operating weight of about 26,000lbs. All your tie down points should have a total capacity of at least 13,000lbs.
That’s not to mean that the number of tie downs doesn’t matter. You cannot just use two tie downs with a combined capacity of 13,000lbs.
Any heavy equipment that weighs at least 10,000lbs requires at least four tie down points, one on each corner. You’ll also need an additional two tie downs to secure the bucket or whichever attachment is on the loader.
How To Load a Front End Loader Onto a Trailer?
Once you have everything you need, you are ready to load and transport the wheel loader. Loading is one of the most hazardous parts of the process, and you need extensive preparation and caution.
Here’s a general step by step guide.
Draw up a plan for loading, transporting, and unloading the front end loader. Having the plan in writing ensures you don’t forget a crucial step and everyone knows what to do.
Your plan should include details like loading location, who will be involved in the loading process, and the role of individual team members.
Typically, 2-3 people are enough to load and secure a wheel loader. One person to drive the loader onto the trailer and 1-2 people to act as spotters.
The plan should also include the road you’ll be taking to the destination, including the height of bridges and overpasses along the route. Note what time you’ll be taking off, expected transport time, and if it’s necessary to change drivers.
At this point, you should find out if you need any transportation permits. This may be necessary if you’ve exceeded the legal road weight limit for your state.
Also plan for the unloading, including location and team members.
To make sure you don’t miss anything, it’s a good idea to have a checklist of everything you need to do and check as you load, transport, and unload the equipment.
2. Select a Location
Here’s what to look for when choosing the right loading location.
- Adequate space for the truck, trailer and loader.
- Flat ground. Having steep banks or deep ruts increases the risk of an accident when loading. If necessary, prepare the location by grading and compacting it.
- No slopes. Do not load the trailer on a slope.
- Firm ground. Another major hazard is loading on soft ground. The heavy weight of the loader can cause the trailer to sink and tip over. Avoid loading on loose soil, muddy ground or snow.
- An area that is clear of people and buildings. If need be, use tape or warning signs to keep people from wandering onto the loading area.
- Park the truck in the right location, making sure there is plenty of space for the loader to drive onto the trailer.
- Use blocks to secure the truck and trailer wheels, to keep them from accidentally rolling when driving the front end loader up the ramps.
- Lower the trailer ramps. If you are using an RGN trailer, disconnect the trailer and drive the truck away from it to create space to load the wheel loader. Check that the ramps and trailer deck are clear of debris, mud, and snow.
- Get into the front end loader and drive it at the lowest speed towards the ramps. A spotter outside the vehicle should make sure you are properly aligned with the ramps. Keep the bucket raised to just below your dash. Do not raise it any higher than that as you need maximum stability when going up the ramps.
- Slowly drive the front end loader onto the trailer and park it where the weight is evenly distributed over the axles.
- Lower the bucket until it is resting on the trailer deck. Turn off the loader, including the hydraulics and activate the parking brake.
- Lock the doors and windows before you get out of the loader.
4. Securing The Front End Loader
Identify the approved tie down points on the front end loader. Check the user manual if you are not sure where they are.
Do not use any points other than these to secure the loader.
Tie down the chains at a 45-degree angle and secure them with the binders. You’ll need six tie down points – four for the loader and two for the loader bucket.
Make sure the chains are secured tightly with no sag.
Transporting a Front End Loader
If you’ve planned your route and know what to expect, the transport part should be easy. The only thing you need to do is regularly check on the load.
Do the first check after 50 miles, then another check every 3 hours or 150 miles, whichever comes first. When inspecting the loader, check that the load has not shifted and that the chains are still snug.
You may need to re-tighten the chains during the trip.
For extra-long trips, it’s a good idea to change drivers to reduce the risk of
How To Safely Unload a Front End Loader?
The unloading site should be ready before you get there. Similar to the loading site, it should be flat, firm and clear of people and buildings.
Do a pre-check before unloading to make sure both the trailer and loader are in good condition. Any kind of damage such as damaged trailer suspension will require adjusting the unloading strategy.
Loosen and remove the tie down chains then back the loader out of the trailer. Remember to raise the bucket a bit to avoid scraping it against the deck.